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Prelude in a chorale arrangement by Johann Sebastian Bach - BWV 736 (prelude marked in red) Play ? / iAudio file / audio sample

In music, the beginning of a song , motif , phrase or entire work on an unstressed part of the bar before the first main accent is referred to as a prelude (formerly also Aufschlag or Arsis ; English "upbeat") .


Since the 19th century, music theory has used the term prelude for the beginning of a piece of music that does not begin with a full measure . In songs, the rhythm is usually synchronized with the textual accentuation . Rhythmically and metrically , the melody mostly follows the flow of language in the text, so that there is a text-tone relationship.

Metric prelude

Metric is upbeat that a song does not start with the count 1, but with a weaker beat.

Many German folk songs begin with an upbeat because their text begins with unstressed particles ( articles , pronouns , prepositions ). " In March the en construction he the Röss lein a stretched ", "In" is the prelude, that the word is a preposition unstressed and only the first syllable of the noun "marches" is emphasized. Further examples: At the well in front of the gate , Walls of gray cities , The miller's desire to hike , The moon has risen , I walked through a grass-green forest , In the morning dew to the mountains , etc. See also a list of folk songs .

Examples from other languages ​​are:

  • Pe ra stous, pera kambous (Greece)
  • A las , my love, you do me wrong ( Greensleeves , England)
  • Pe tit papa noël (France)

(Start in italics , first emphasis in bold )

For Jérôme-Joseph de Momigny , the prelude was a preferred element of phrasing , so that he emphasized it.

Hugo Riemann's system of musical rhythm and metrics (Leipzig, 1903) is based on 3 interdependent principles, namely agogic (change of tempo), upbeat and eight-beat . Upbeat means here that music generally progresses from easy to difficult, from upbeat to downbeat and from question to answer. Riemann's theory is criticized because it is predominantly based on up-cycle models and ignores down-cycle models.

In the case of songs and smaller, more manageable instrumental pieces, the final bar is shortened by the length of the prelude so that it forms a full bar together with the prelude. This is especially the case when several stanzas are to be sung with one continuous pulse . The scheme is broken through in the area of ​​folk songs when the text structure results in an irregular musical formation. In the 19th century, the stylistic solution to classical forms resulted in a liberation from this principle.

General kick-off

General kick-off is a term that came from Hugo Riemann. It is a prelude of a higher order that is not part of the following motif, but rather a transition to a new thought or to the repetition of a topic that has already arisen. He calls it a "prelude that does not belong to the next clock motif, but rather leads on to the renewed presentation of the main idea." Jérôme-Joseph de Momigny already recognized the importance of the general prelude ; he calls it "lien" (band). Mathis Lussy, who took up Momigny's ideas again in 1873, calls the transition tones notes de soudure (“seam”). In Hugo Riemann's phrasing editions, the general prelude is identified by a forward arc.

Other meanings

  • According to an older usage, the upbeat (also Aufstreich , French levée , it.levata ) is the unstressed (easy, bad) measure part, the arsis , in contrast to the stressed (difficult, good) measure part, the thesis , which is the abbot (also low beat , Niederstreich , French frappée , it. Battuta ). This terminology has its origin in tactus , the up and down movement of the hand or foot when singing. The word Auftakt was then carried over to the beginning of the phrase in the Auftakt .
  • Figuratively speaking of opening as the opening of an event: the prelude to this year's Oktoberfest formed the traditional beer-tapping.


  • Erich Wolf: The music education. Volume I: General Music Theory. 7th edition. Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden 1985, ISBN 3-7651-0044-7 , pp. 62-64.
  • Wieland Ziegenrücker: ABC music. General music theory. New edition. Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden, 2009, ISBN 978-3-7651-0309-4 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Prelude  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Anacrusis (music)  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Real Lexicon of German Literary Studies . 3. Edition. Volume 1. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-11-019355-8 , p. 166 ( limited preview in the Google book search).
  2. Wieland Ziegenrücker, Peter Wicke : Sachlexikon Popularmusik . Goldmann, Munich 1987, ISBN 3-442-33601-5 , p. 219.
  3. Wieland Ziegenrücker, Peter Wicke : Sachlexikon Popularmusik . Goldmann, Munich 1987, ISBN 3-442-33601-5 , p. 30
  4. Wieland Ziegenrücker: ABC Music. General music theory . New edition. Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-7651-0309-4 , p. 68.
  5. Christoph Hempel: New general music theory. Schott, Mainz 1997, ISBN 3-254-08200-1 , p. 89
  6. a b Erich Wolf: The music education. Volume I: General Music Theory. 7th edition. Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden 1985, ISBN 3-7651-0044-7 , p. 64.
  7. ^ Hugo Riemann: Outline of the theory of composition . Hesse, Leipzig 1897, p. 89.